Cheever Lake is a 367-acre preserve featuring a large, shallow glacial lake with abundant aquatic vegetation. It is located two miles southwest of Estherville in Emmet County. The lake was mapped in 1857 as a “meandered lake,” meaning that the first federal surveyors had to walk around the lake to complete their demarcation of lands in the township to be opened to public sale. Surveyed uplands were quickly sold as farmland. Many meandered lakes were eventually sold as well and were promptly drained. Cheever Lake, however, remained part of the public domain in an undrained condition, eventually coming under control of the Iowa Conservation Commission. Today it is an outstanding example of an undrained natural lake. It was dedicated in 1978 as a biological and geological state preserve.
Located in the Des Moines Lobe landform region, Cheever Lake is typical of many wetlands that were created by glacial activity 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. This extensive lake complex is part of a network of glacial lakes and outwash channels that thread through the irregular “knob and kettle” terrain of the Altamont moraine, occupying part of the route taken by glacial meltwater that once flowed through southwestern Emmet County.
Almost ninety wetland plant species are found here, including wild rice, white water lilies, yellow spatterdock, and bladderwort. Mink, beaver, muskrat, northern leopard frog, western chorus frog, Cope’s gray treefrog, and red-sided garter snake use the marsh edge. Many species of birds nest in the marsh, including yellow-headed blackbird, blue-winged teal, pied-billed grebe, and sora and Virginia rails. In the spring of 1998, several trumpeter swans were released on the lake as part of a reintroduction effort by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Hunting and fishing are allowed.
Other natural areas in the vicinity include Fort Defiance State Park and Anderson Prairie State Preserve.